can ecoturism save the world? can anything?

performance, Kunming, China, 2005.

In 2005, I performed this solo piece as part of Jianghu 2 exhibition opening in Kunming, China at the A-Lab art space. I performed for the entire opening. The piece had four movements. The first began days before the opening. I re-appropriated a small room full of trash. I cleaned up shit, asbestos roofing and assorted rubble. I cleaned out the toxic mess, repainted, planted a small garden, and cared for the native foliage. In the second movement, I wandered around the exhibition opening in Chinese opera inspired make-up and an improvised tutu made of plastic bags. I carried a large square chopping knife and a watermelon painted to look like planet Earth.

I interacted with exhibition attendees and other art. In the third movement, exhibition goers and other artists were invited to paint my body, images of greenery and life on the front of the body and images of black smoke and pollution on the back.

For the fourth and final movement, I did a very intense performance in the small room. The performance was structured like a new age magic ritual but within the ritual were multiple interwoven narratives; motorcycle driving/creating magic circle around world, drilling for oil (geographically accurate on watermelon), camping and being haunted by nature spirits, facing shame in the mirror, and more. The final movement was intense, outrageous and grotesque. I violently and sexually drilled the Earth painted watermelon for oil. I smashed a mirror on my face. I burned furniture and pissed in my improvised garden.

This was written a few days after the performance.

The title is “Can ecoturism save the world?” Can
Anything?

I re-appropriated a small room full of trash to be my
performance arena. The show really began days before
the opening while I cleaned up shit, asbestos roofing
and assorted rubble with a small audience of factory
workers on smoke brakes, fellow artist and their
students. I was doing something a foreigner would
almost never do because most would hire a poor worker
for a pittance. I cleaned out the toxic mess,
repainted, planted a small garden, and babied the
volunteer foliage.

The night of the show i began in a plastic bag skirt
with sad “jingjiu” make up. At the beginning of the
opening I had audience members paint nature scenes on
my front and industrial scenes on my back while I was
lying in the main gallery fondling a watermelon
painted like the earth and a large chopper.

Then I wandered around interacting with the other art
which was all relatively static. I tried to link the
pieces to my performance.

During the first two hours of the opening my room was
dedicated to my other piece an installation providing
a place or artist to fight. “Jianghu Hu Art Battle
Arena” (I’ll try to explain that later).

At ten a clock I entered my room after changing the
sign outside. I started with a ritual scattering of
flour (like traditional magic) transforming into a
snow storm. The “world” (watermelon) was set in the
middle of the room on a raised alter. The room
contained also my small garden, a fire pit, a pile of
fire wood, a screwdriver, and some bushes hiding
forest spirits (masks and puppets).

I proceeded to perform multiple narrative and multiple
characters big and small. In a way that gave the
viewer the main job of assigning specific narrative(s)
but was clear enough that every audience member read
some of the stories.
They included: Motorcycle driving/created magic circle
around world.
Drilling for oil (geographically accurate on
watermelon)
camping and haunted by nature spirits.
facing the mirror.
And more.

The performance lasted for an hour or so. The audience
could only watch through the window and door so they
were all crowded together craning their necks and
eyes.

All and all it was a successful performance. Except I
doubt it will really effect many audience members to
change their behavior. Oh well.